The Bills-mas spirit is strong in the Mafia, as Buffalo clinched the AFC East last Saturday. As I said on BF’s “Morning After” Show, the Buffalo Bills were firing on all cylinders against the Denver Broncos. On offense, Allen did his (MVP) thing, Diggs and Beasley both recorded 100-yard games, and Touchdown Jesus blessed us all with a 22-yard score. On Defense, Tre’Davious White and Jerry Hughes showed their hidden talent: impersonating Bruce Smith and Shady McCoy on the strip-six. (Since so many defensive players made an impact, I will skip the remainder of the individual shout outs. Good job guys!) This game also saw the end of an era. That’s right, Gabriel Davis did not score a touchdown. His pursuit of Lee Evans’s streak is over. (Though he could still break Evans’ rookie touchdown record.)
However, Dawson Knox is officially on a roll. He has scored a touchdown in three of Buffalo’s past four games. This may not seem like much, but (considering he’s the fourth/fifth option on this offense) it’s significant. When I see #88 on the field, he looks like #88 Pete Metzelaars. Both have the size and athleticism to make plays, but their commonalities extend far beyond that.
In this week’s installment of “2020 Vision” we shall examine the parallel careers of jersey mates Pete Metzelaars and Dawson Knox.
The Road to Buffalo
Before he was on the receiving end of Jim Kelly’s passes, Pete Metzelaars threw the pigskin as the quarterback for Portage Central High School in Michigan. He would walk on at Division III Wabash College (Indiana), converting to tight end in the process. He excelled in both football and basketball, tallying 77 receptions for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns as well as 1,976 points and 1,176 rebounds in his collegiate career. Even though the “Wabash Cannonball” was more successful on the basketball court, he was selected in the third round of the 1982 NFL Draft (75th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks.
Unfortunately, Pete’s time in the Emerald City was not a gem. In three seasons, he recorded only 27 receptions, 304 yards, and one touchdown. He also missed 14 games during that time frame. Before the 1985 season, Seattle moved on from Metzelaars, trading him to Buffalo for receiver Byron Franklin.
Dawson Knox began his freshman year at Brentwood Academy High School (Tennessee) as a 5’10”, 170-pound backup quarterback. He filled out, growing to 6’3”, 210 pounds, and earned the starting job his senior year. Unfortunately, his tenure as QB1 would end with a dislocated ankle in the second half of his first game. While he did have offers to play QB from Austin Peay, Cornell, and Air Force, Knox chose a different path.
In 2015, he walked on and redshirted his freshman year at Ole Miss, gaining 40 pounds of muscle as part of a position change to tight end. In 2016, he played in six games as a special teamer. He finally saw the field on offense in 2017 and 2018, recording 39 receptions for 605 yards as Jordan Ta’amu’s fifth option. (The other four receivers ahead of him: D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson, and Damarkus Lodge.) Nevertheless, Knox’s physical attributes impressed Brandon Beane, as Buffalo traded the 112th and 131st overall picks to Washington to take him in the third round (96th overall).
Capitalizing on Inconsistency
Pete’s Wild Ride
Pete Metzelaars had an interesting career in Buffalo. In 1985, he caught only 12 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. From 1986-88, Jim Kelly’s first three years, Pete had 110 receptions, 1,213 yards, and four touchdowns. Then, from 1989-91, he recorded just 33 receptions, 293 yards, and five touchdowns as the blocking tight end. However, Metzelaars re-emerged when Keith McKeller, the namesake of the “K-Gun”, went down with an injury in 1992 and missed half of ’93. From ’92-’94, he tallied 147 receptions, 1,335 yards and 15 touchdowns, solidifying himself in Bills history.
(Before I go on, take a moment to recover from that whiplash. You good? Good.)
Knox Shows Flashes
We all know what Knox has done over the past two seasons. In 2019, he had 28 receptions, 388 yards, two touchdowns, an angry run, and a contortionist-caliber catch against New England. So far in 2020, he has caught 19 passes for 208 yards, and three highlight-reel scores (against the Chargers, Niners, and Broncos).
Patience is a Virtue
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took Phileas Fogg 79 days to travel the world. Dawson Knox has shown he can play tight end; he just needs more time to develop. He only had 17 games at the position entering the league, so it’s no surprise he’s having growing pains (13 dropped passes, two fumbles, and several missed blocks in his 25 games). No player is immune from mistakes.
Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.Phyllis Theroux
Pete Metzelaars had five fumbles in his first three years with Buffalo (1985-87). Did Kelly stop throwing to him? No. In fact, Pete had the fourth-most receptions on the team in 1988. Did Bills fans call for him to be cut because of a lack of numbers in ’89-’91? No, he was a key part of Thurman’s ascension and balled out when called upon after McKeller’s injury.
Dawson Knox can become a great tight end. Of course, he has to become more consistent as a pass catcher and run blocker, but that will only come in time. Practice makes perfect after all, just ask Pete Metzelaars.
What do you think? Will Dawson Knox become the next great Bills tight end? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).